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The National Defense Authorization Act
The text as it appears on the back of the card

On December 31, 2011, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. Along with imposing new sanctions against Iran and allocating $662 billion in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Act authorizes the military to detain, indefinitely and without trial, anyone it deems to be a terrorist or supporter of terrorism, including any U.S. citizen. The Act defines those subject to military detention as anyone who has “substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.”

The law’s vague definition of those subject to detention as well as its application to U.S. citizens has fueled widespread concern and condemnation. And while the Act’s sponsors claim the provision merely codifies powers that congress already approved shortly after 9/11 in the joint resolution entitled Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), the provision clearly broadens the definition of those subject to military detention. Where the AUMF allowed only for the detention and rendition of “enemy combatants,” the NDAA now introduces “associated forces” and anyone who has “committed a belligerent act” or “substantially supported” terrorism. Similarly, President Obama dismissed the indefinite detention provision as superfluous and “unnecessary,” yet at the same time the Senate voted to reject an amendment by Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal) that would have specifically excluded U.S. citizens from the provision.

While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he would not personally authorize the military to detain American citizens using the new law, the statement does not apply to subsequent administrations, nor is it legally binding. And given that the Obama administration recently defended the military assassination of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaqi, can Obama’s promise even be trusted?

Also, the NDAA specifically redefines the “battlefield” in the War on Terror to include U.S. soil. Why now? Could the government be preparing the way to use the military to quell social unrest? Former New York Times war correspondent, Chris Hedges, who is suing the Obama administration over the NDAA’s indefinite detention provision, thinks it’s possible. “I suspect the real purpose of the bill is to thwart internal, domestic movements that threaten the corporate state,” he writes. “I spent many years in countries where the military had the power to arrest and detain citizens without charge. I have been in some of these jails. I have friends and colleagues who have ‘disappeared’ into military gulags. I know the consequences of granting sweeping and unrestricted policing power to the armed forces of any nation.”

The militarization of police, the expansion of the State’s surveillance and security apparatus, and the broadening of the U.S. military’s role to include domestic operations against U.S. citizens will likely accelerate the growth of popular movements of protest and civil disobedience.
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